In Jeremiah 7 we read one of the temple messages that God gives through His prophet Jeremiah, to His people.
God’s message is to reform their ways, in verse 3 God says “Reform your ways and your actions and I will let you live in this place.”
What were the people doing that they had to change their ways? In verses 5-9 we get an insight into their actions that were displeasing to God.
In verse 2 God says to Jeremiah “Stand at the gate of the Lord’s house and there proclaim this message. Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord.”
These words were to be spoken from the gates of the temple, and its message was for those that are still actively engaging in worship in the Lord’s temple.
In verse 4 God warns, “Do not to listen to deceptive words and say, this is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.” Spoken by false prophets, the deceptive words that God is talking about gave false assurance to the people that they were exempt from God’s judgement simply because of the presence of the temple. The meaningless and repetitive mention of the words ‘this is the Lord’s temple’ is not what God is seeking after but genuine worship and a change of heart as we read in verse 5 “if you really change your ways and your actions.”
This reminds us of Jesus’s words in Mathew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father in heaven.”
What kind of worship were the people offering? An outward act alone with an absence of genuine heartfelt obedience in it, an act out of habit, and an act stemming from practices that relied on deceptive words from false prophets rather than the truth from God.
In verse 10, God says that after committing all the above-mentioned sins, “They come and stand before me in this house, which bears my name and say, we are safe”– safe to do all these detestable things?”
The people seem to give more emphasis and value to the temple than to God, the presence of whom makes the temple significant in worship.
How often do we see parallels today with this sort of worship?
Worship that is attached to a place, a church, rather than to God. Worship that does not extend beyond the surface acts of what is being performed. Worship that is not a reflection of a life given to and lived for God but rather just an obligatory practice. In our today, does going to church, giving, maybe partaking in a few ministry events fulfill the obligation that we think we need to meet to call ourselves Christian and satisfy God?
The question we need to ask ourselves is, where is the following of Christ in that sort of a life?
God is not in the business of redeeming buildings but He is for redeeming people. He is not after offerings but the changed hearts of people.
In verse 3 and 7 we read God say, if you change your ways “Then I will let you live in this place.” In verse 7 we read, “In the land that I gave your forefathers forever and ever.” The land that they were living in was theirs, given by God and God himself reminds them that it is theirs forever. That gift was God’s blessing and provision to them, but their acts of disobedience and rebellion put them in a position where they were going to be removed from that blessing and promise.
The Israelites after being led out of Egypt by God through Moses, rebelled and disobeyed God. And an entire generation did not get to set foot in the promised land (Deuteronomy 1:35).
Our choices and actions always do have consequences. God is a loving and forgiving Father but He who bestows everything so lavishly on us clearly states that in response to His love and grace, an intentional effort and desire to walk in a manner that honours Him and is pleasing to Him is necessitated.
In verse 11, we read, “Has this house which bears my Name become a den of robbers to you? We see this verse quoted by Jesus in Mathew 21:13 when he enters the temple and chases out all those who were buying and selling.
When we gather for worship in God’s name – what are we making that place out to be – a house of prayer, a beacon of hope, a place for lost and weary souls, a place that reflects Christ’s love, compassion, forgiveness and acceptance, or do we make it a den of robbers? Robbing people of the chance to know Christ and twisting the design and purpose that God had for what church should be.
In verse 13, we read, “While you were doing all these things, declares the Lord, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer.”
We see God’s faithfulness to His people here. While they lived displeasing Him, He called and spoke to them again and again. A heart full of love who does not give up on His people and persistent in drawing them back to Him is what we see here. The Lord spoke and He called, but the Israelites chose not to listen and did not respond to His call.
Is God speaking to you today about something He wants you to let go off. Is He calling you to a deeper walk of faith with Him or if you have not acknowledged Him as your Lord, is He calling you to do so?
The Lord was faithful then and He is faithful to us now. He wants to draw close to us, He wants genuine heartfelt worship and hearts that desire Him and lives that reflect that. He wants to take us deeper in our journey with Him and to do so we have to reflect on our ways and our actions and see if they are right in the eyes of God.
May our lives be one of worship to Him, heeding His voice and walking in all the ways the Lord commands us and honouring HIM with our obedience.